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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Lord of the Rings:
Where did the Films IMPROVE ON the telling of the LOTR?
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Black Breathalizer

Jan 7 2012, 5:38pm

Post #1 of 105 (6639 views)
Where did the Films IMPROVE ON the telling of the LOTR? Can't Post

This thread is a response to the "What BUGS you about the films?" thread.

Anytime a film adaptation is stacked up against the novel it was based on, the film is usually going to fall short. And when the source novel is one of the literary classics of all time, the comparison is going to be especially harsh. That said, I think it's absolutely amazing how well Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films have stood the test of time. The films have become all-time classics in the same way JRR Tolkien's books have.

While I could nit-pick things that I wish the filmmakers would have done differently, I find myself more impressed by how many of the changes improved the story and gave us new insights into some of the characters we thought we knew.

I won't make a comprehensive list of all of film's enhancements here because I'd like to see if other posters point out some of the same ones I see. But I will kick this thread off by pointing out one of my personal favorites: Jackson's version of the Breaking of the Fellowship.

By having the orcs attack our heros before Frodo and Sam set off across the river, Jackson was able to make the breaking of the Fellowship a triumph rather than a failure. Instead of the mass confusion we see in the books, the end of the Fellowship is transformed into a celebration of the power of friendship---a theme of the books that Jackson has amped up in the films. Jackson's change made the decision to include Merry and Pippin in the Fellowship relevant rather than irrelevant to the Ringbearer's quest. It made Aragorn's decison more understandable, Frodo's behavior more honorable, and Boromir's death more tragic. The film version is now my personal view of "what really happened" at the breaking of the Fellowship.

Your thoughts?

(This post was edited by Black Breathalizer on Jan 7 2012, 5:39pm)


Jan 7 2012, 6:24pm

Post #2 of 105 (5708 views)
Many instances [In reply to] Can't Post

Obviously, the departure of Boromir is one example of showing, not telling, that is a film's strength. Showing what happened to Gandalf at Isengard rather than the adventures of Tom Bombadil (boy all means, he can be in The Hobbit, but he's out of place in LOTR), and having the Ents attack it during the battle of Helm's Deep via the magic of editing. Other examples:

Changing the circumstances at Helm's Deep for a bleak siege story.

Not trying to pass off Miranda Otto as a man to the audience.

Having the Dead at the Pelennor Fields, a more sensible decision of Aragorn's (but that's the only bit I really like about it. I recall years ago PJ said he didn't like the Paths of the Dead, and I assume if he had made LOTR into two films they would've been cut).

Having Merry at the Black Gate. It may not be logical for Merry to recover from his wounds so quickly, but it makes sense emotionally for all of the Fellowship (except Boromir) to be present at the fall of Sauron. I love how his joy turns to shock as he realises Sam and Frodo may be dead.

"Don't you let go." Yeah I went there: Frodo had spared Gollum so that theme's still there, so PJ reemphasises the theme of hope and despair with Frodo hanging on, seemingly wishing to die with the Ring, but Sam's there to make him reach for friendship and the Shire instead. Speaking of which, as the scouring of the Shire would never have been in the films (and New Line was not going to fund a scene that would've been cut anyway, so alas no alternate ending on the DVD), PJ gave us that lovely moment where the Hobbits have a toast to their adventures no one else knows about.

There are also some instances where I feel changes didn't go far enough. It occured to me that fans of the novel might've taken less umbrage with the Elves at Helm's Deep if the Sons of Elrond and the Rangers had been with them: earlier flashback scenes at Rivendell could've been used to introduce them further, as had occurred to PJ during 2002 with the Sons of the Steward scene (alas, it was cut out).

More or less a movie firster, I was one of those surprised Arwen was not a member of the Fellowship. Regardless of those fans who upset Liv Tyler with their "XenArwen" comments, the team came to the conclusion, to quote Liv, that "you don't have to put a sword in [Arwen's] hands" to demonstrate her strength. But it is so odd that Arwen could enlist the aid of Ulmo (or whoever) to beat back the Ringwraiths, and Gandalf doesn't think, "She'd be quite useful." I'd have liked a scene where Elrond snaps that he won't place his daughter in further danger, underlying another reason he would want her to leave Middle-earth (aside from becoming eventually heartbroken). Something for the EE really. I'm still so glad Arwen has a big role in these movies, because PJ could've taken Boorman's route of having Eowyn be Aragorn's love interest.

One fan suggestion I've always carried to heart is Eowyn's dream (which was actually Tolkien's dream that inspired the tale of Numenor). I think it was Faramir's dream in the book, and it could've further explained why they bond by having her mention it to him at the Houses of Healing, to his astonishment. In the EE, it's just a foreshadowing device for Sauron invading Gondor which Aragorn ignores.

Two instances of changes to dialogue that stick in my mind after rereading bits of FOTR:

"Bring forth the Ring."


Superuser / Moderator

Jan 7 2012, 8:46pm

Post #3 of 105 (5723 views)
Two in particular, to my mind: [In reply to] Can't Post

The fleshing out of Boromir's character. Because of the film, I finally understood him and saw more dimensions to him than just a man ensnared by ring-lust.

Bringing Arwen's story into the film. When I first read the book I was confused about why she was turning up in the end to marry Aragorn - having their relationship woven into the film's story (despite the 'Her fate is tied to the Ring' confusion) was a welcome inclusion.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.

Ataahua's stories

Black Breathalizer

Jan 7 2012, 10:10pm

Post #4 of 105 (5623 views)
Film enhancements [In reply to] Can't Post

Alientraveller wrote: But it is so odd that Arwen could enlist the aid of Ulmo (or whoever) to beat back the Ringwraiths, and Gandalf doesn't think, "She'd be quite useful."

I know this is a minor point (and off topic) but my understanding is that the river rising to encompass the Ringwraiths was a "Rivendell defense mechanism" that Arwen is able to trigger (as Elrond did in the book).
So while Arwen was able to "push the alarm button" so to speak with her chant, she was no sorceress with special powers.

Alientraveller wrote: Having Merry at the Black Gate. It may not be logical for Merry to recover from his wounds so quickly, but it makes sense emotionally for all of the Fellowship (except Boromir) to be present at the fall of Sauron.

One of the memorable scenes from the ROTK was the sight of Merry and Pippin running off to follow Aragorn's charge into the hordes of Mordor before the taller Gondorian soldiers overtake them.

Alientraveller wrote: Having the Dead at the Pelennor Fields, a more sensible decision of Aragorn's (but that's the only bit I really like about it.

I think their presence could have been much more dramatic if the Dead soldiers had been presented as physical zombies rather than spirits. Since the zombies were already dead, they would have been just as unstoppable, but it would have been more realistically displayed (and visually stunning) than the sight of a green "spray" rushing through Minas Tirith.

Ataahua wrote: Bringing Arwen's story into the film.

It certainly enriched the story and was something I believe Tolkien would have done himself if he had realized it earlier in his writing of the story. Though Arwen's scenes were few, they were all very emotionally charged IMHO.


Jan 7 2012, 11:13pm

Post #5 of 105 (5609 views)
Moving the section [In reply to] Can't Post

about Frodo and Sam into ROTK where it belonged timewise was my favorite change. Showing Gandalf's fall in the mountain in the fight with the Balrog.

Tol Eressea

Jan 8 2012, 12:16am

Post #6 of 105 (5635 views)
I can't think on any concrete examples sadly, but how about the parts in LOTR books that are only very briefly mentioned, [In reply to] Can't Post

but are then expanded and made dramatic by PJ. Eg.) Lighting of the Beacons possibly?

darn, I cannae think of any examples. Plus I haven't read the books for donkey's years


The Five Istari:

Sarry, Gandy, Raddy, Ally and Pally

A great bunch :)

Registered User

Jan 8 2012, 12:17am

Post #7 of 105 (5583 views)
I completely agree with you... [In reply to] Can't Post

about the breaking of the fellowship. That really is what pops into my mind first whenever I hear the question, 'what did the films improve upon?' Boromir's death was epic in the films.... nothing beats 'My brother, my captain, my king.' Hard to believe that wasn't written by Tolkien.

I also really like how Arwen's story was woven in, as others have said. I wish they would've taken this further, even, especially in ROTK and cleared up some of the 'dying' confusion. (Wasn't there scenes filmed where she was searching in the library and discovered information on the paths of the dead, causing her to despair, etc?)

And while I'm sad about how almost all of Eowyn's speech was cut from the witch king battle, I do like how the films offered up more vulnerability for her character in that moment. She wasn't as suicidal as she was in the book; she was more fearful (more realistic, imo) and focused on protecting Merry, and friendship in general. Again, agreeing with you on how Jackson amped up that theme throughout, which is a welcome change.

I can probably come up with tons more examples, big and small, but those were what I thought of right away. Great question. :)

Tol Eressea

Jan 8 2012, 2:05am

Post #8 of 105 (5570 views)
Rohirrim showing up at the end of TTT [In reply to] Can't Post

with Gandalf and charging down the mountain! Epic!

They captured members of the Faithful and sacrificed them in the fires of the altar, in the hope that Morgoth would release them from Death.

Arwen Skywalker

Jan 8 2012, 2:31am

Post #9 of 105 (5628 views)
Not passing off Eowyn as a man opened a lot of doors [In reply to] Can't Post

Particularly in terms of strengthening her friendship with Merry. In the book, her disguise acted as a barrier between them. Granted, she was dealing with issues of her own but from what I remember, she barely paid any attention to Merry the entire way to the Pelennor. As a movie firster, that was disappointing. I agree that they made the right call not hiding the fact that she was a woman from the audience and Merry.

Speaking of the same family, while Theoden's "where was Gondor" rant still annoys me, I liked the rest of the movie's portrayal of him. There's no way someone suffering the aftereffects of being possessed would do an immediate 180 into a decisive leader. This more realistic portrayal bothers some purists but I can't help being a heretic. There are some areas where I wish the movies were closer to the books but this isn't one of them.

Grey Havens

Jan 8 2012, 5:56am

Post #10 of 105 (5662 views)
some off the top of my head [In reply to] Can't Post

1. having Sauron break Narsil by stepping on it rather than having it break because Elendil fell on it

2. giving Frodo a memorable introduction

3. reducing the ridiculous amount of time between Bilbo's party and Gandalf's return

4. I always felt that Frodo and Bilbo's reunion in Rivendell was handled better in the movie.

5. Giving Eowyn a larger role worked well for the most part.

6. Some people hate the fellowship's reunion at the end of the Return of the King because of it's cheesiness, but I loved it and really preferred it to the way it was handled in the book. Merry and Pippin basically just say "oh look, it's Frodo" in the book.

(This post was edited by Mooseboy018 on Jan 8 2012, 5:57am)

Lily Fairbairn

Jan 8 2012, 7:26pm

Post #11 of 105 (5569 views)
Speaking of Eowyn [In reply to] Can't Post

It's not really a change in the movie, more of an expansion, but I like how we see Eowyn stopping for a bit of sword practice (and an exchange of challenges with Aragorn!) while she's packing up Meduseld before the move to Dunharrow. Even though you see Eowyn wearing a sword in the books, very briefly, it's only in the movie you see that she knows how to use it---before she pulls it out and gets busy on the fell beast and the witch king.

I, too, like the changes to the Breaking of the Fellowship in the movie, especially Merry and Pippin putting themselves in harm's way to help Frodo and his quest.

* * * * * * *
Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?

A man may do both. For not we but those who come after will make the legends of our time. The green earth, say you? That is a mighty matter of legend, though you tread it under the light of day!


Jan 8 2012, 8:27pm

Post #12 of 105 (5497 views)
The smoke ship. [In reply to] Can't Post

The smoke ship isnít in the book?
I could have sworn that it was in the book!
Well, it could have been in the book.

Malveth The Eternal

Jan 9 2012, 3:56am

Post #13 of 105 (5497 views)
IMO [In reply to] Can't Post

Absolutely NOWHERE does Peter Jackson "improve" on Tolkien.
The very notion is absurd.
While Jackson managed to improve on some of his own previous efforts, he is infinitely inferior to J.R.R. Tolkien as a storyteller. He is a mere copyist.



Jan 9 2012, 8:08am

Post #14 of 105 (5481 views)
The fundamental change for me.... [In reply to] Can't Post

The fundamental change for me between Tolkiens books and Jacksons films is that the divide between the 4 Hobbits and the rest of middle earth is lessened. Tolkiens Hobbits represent by far the most human characters in the book with the rest of middle earth staying closer to mythical architypes and Gandalf as something of an inbetween. Jacksons telling though looks to humanise the rest of middle earth giving characters such as Aragorn, Boromir, Eoywen, Theoden, Elrond, Arwen and Faramir less archetypal personalities.

I'd argue that such a change was pretty much inevitable as Tolkiens divide is achieved by literary means(we have an inner window into the thoughts and feelings of the Hobbits and nobody else) that would be icnredabley hard to replicate onscreen.

The vast majority of the changes to the story rather than the excusions from it stem from that fundamental shift for me so its very hard to judge whether they "improved" on it or not, most of them certainly improved to Jacksons telling for me but the majority of them would probabley not have done so in the book.

Tol Eressea

Jan 9 2012, 8:11am

Post #15 of 105 (5483 views)
Great thread! [In reply to] Can't Post

I love reading all these responses and agree pretty much wholeheartedly with all except Malveth the Eternal. To Malveth I would respectfully say that if we were talking about changes to the books, I'd agree with you totally; I think most everyone would. But for the medium of film, these changes were indeed improvements.


Jan 9 2012, 4:38pm

Post #16 of 105 (5476 views)
The main thing [In reply to] Can't Post

He did a creditable cinematic adaptation that preserved key elements, made it exciting, and introduced the stories to literally millions of new fans that might never have been inspired by the books alone.

Black Breathalizer

Jan 9 2012, 6:28pm

Post #17 of 105 (5487 views)
Jackson DID INDEED IMPROVE the LOTR mythology. [In reply to] Can't Post

Malveth The Eternal wrote: Absolutely NOWHERE does Peter Jackson "improve" on Tolkien. The very notion is absurd.

Why? Anyone who has studied Tolkien at all knows that he second-guessed his writing decisions all the time. That is very fortunate for all of us because if he hadn't, Frodo would have been Bingo and Strider would have been a hobbit from Bree.

In the case of the LOTR, Tolkien was writing a mythology and--as with any great mythology--it has taken on a life of its own. Fortunately there weren't copyrights around when the Greek and Norse mythologies were created because the beauty of them is the fact that many generations and countless individuals contributed to the stories and legends that still exist today.

I don't believe it insults Tolkien in the slightest to have people enhance the wonderful world he created for all of us. In fact, it's the ultimate flattery.

If you want to argue that "Absolutely NOWHERE" does Jackson "improve" on the story, I would like to give you an example: the final destruction of the ring in the tunnels of Mount Doom.

Tolkien, as I recall, deliberately wanted fate to play the key role in the ring's final destruction. While it may have felt right to the philosopher in him, it wasn't a good decision for a storyteller. As a devout LOTR lover, it remains THE ONE THING about the books that has always felt "wrong" to me. The result was to greatly diminish Frodo's role and instead of giving me, the reader, the inspirational and emotional payoff that had been building up since chapter two of FOTR---it felt incredibly anti-climatic instead.

Now contrast that with Jackson's approach in the films. Having Frodo wrestle with Gollum (causing both to fall), allowed him to be directly involved in the ring's destruction and had the added irony of having the ring's corrupting power and influence become its ultimate undoing. It also resonated one of the powerful themes of the books: loyalty and friendship is the ultimate weapon against evil.

Contrast that with Gollum dancing around and then losing his footing with a sudden tremor from the volcano....and which of the two is the most emotionally satisfying? I would wager that if Tolkien's version of the ring's end and Jackson's version were put up for a vote among LOTR lovers, Peter "The Mere Copyist" Jackson's "non-improvement" would win in a landslide.

Malveth The Eternal

Jan 9 2012, 6:34pm

Post #18 of 105 (5449 views)
Obviously... [In reply to] Can't Post

I don't think the Jackson-isms improve Tolkien.
If you do, fine. Enjoy it all.
But I don't see anything in the films as improving on Tolkien.
How Tolkien might have improved his own work is unknown, apart from bits in letters and unpublished redrafts of passages. He had a go at re-writing The Hobbit & I think he was on the right track.
But the idea that Jackson's ham-fisted dramatic hand in an way improves on Tolkien is a joke to me.


Black Breathalizer

Jan 9 2012, 6:54pm

Post #19 of 105 (5484 views)
destruction of the ring [In reply to] Can't Post

Malveth The Eternal wrote: the idea that Jackson's ham-fisted dramatic hand in an way improves on Tolkien is a joke to me.

To each his own. But if you want to defend your position so we can engage in a discussion about it rather than simply criticize Jackson, I'd be interested to hear how Tolkien's version of the destruction of the ring was such a superior way of handling it in your opinion.

Malveth The Eternal

Jan 9 2012, 7:07pm

Post #20 of 105 (5464 views)
It works [In reply to] Can't Post

If it ain't broke, don't fix it!
It's better because I like it more & it's part of the original text.
There's no need to fiddle with it.
Turning the irony of the scene into a melodramatic melee with Frodo & Gollum going medieval one each other seems childish to me. I like the way Tolkien, on one hand, can present heroism in its romantic form, and on the other hand, deflate it completely, as in Saruman's death, Gollum's fall ect. This is variation of tone, something completely missing from Jackson. He has two speeds, medium-slow and frenetically fast. Tolkien varies tone expertly, deftly, it isn't often that you notice it, or that he falters. In this instance, Gollum's end is more modern, more akin to Joyce or Beckett, which is what makes the novel so compelling, the variation between the romantic epic form and the form of a post 19th century novel. It's like altering Tolkien's Orwellian orcs, politically programmed and anachronistically preoccupied with procedure, to cockney accented bullies, monotone monsters who are there only to be spitted by swords.



Jan 9 2012, 7:20pm

Post #21 of 105 (5451 views)
I never thought Orcs could be sound different [In reply to] Can't Post

Of course Orcs and Uruks like Lurtz and Gothmog have distinct voices, but no, it never occurred to me they weren't necessarily rough cockney rabble in the book. Always nice to hear how others interpret Tolkien. Wink

"Sure, it's not really The Lord of the Rings, but it could still be a pretty damn cool movie." - PJ


Jan 9 2012, 7:30pm

Post #22 of 105 (5420 views)
Thanks for elaborating [In reply to] Can't Post

Your tone seems unnecessarily haughty and condescending to those who would disagree with you, but thanks for taking the time to not simply label those disagreements as "silly" from a pedestal.

Malveth The Eternal

Jan 9 2012, 7:47pm

Post #23 of 105 (5442 views)
Sorry to say.. [In reply to] Can't Post

But we all sound that way in print! Opinions just look really arrogant when typed out.

Every single thing that allows us to gauge another person's attitude or mood is missing in this medium, and emoticons just don't cut it. Since most people skip over posts that aren't responses to their own, I stopped inserting endless parentheticals or emoticons, since most of my posts go unread or commended on. And it's an opinion forum based on a 1200 page novel, most here have advanced degrees & knowledge far beyond my own; I assume they can handle my wee little opinion!



Jan 9 2012, 8:02pm

Post #24 of 105 (5453 views)
Improving Tolkien's story? [In reply to] Can't Post

The problem with such discussions is this . . . you are comparing a narrative work of fiction to it's representation in a visual medium.
- The Lord of the Rings is a story filled with mythology, wonderful characters and moving descriptions of another world. Conversely, most feature films based upon novels are made in an attempt to incorporate all of these elements in a more visual and, usually, time-constrained format, emphasizing the more exciting and visual portions of the text. Can't be done, not effectively. CERTAINLY can't be done in this case!
- The two HAVE to be taken separately, as direct comparisons or any consideration of improvements are . . . impossible. Total different mediums . . .

Still, that would defeat the whole point of the Forums, would it not? Wink

- As to the 'Frodo struggling with Gollum for the Ring' argument, I've got to side with Malveth. I do not like the whole struggle for the Ring, nor do I like the aftermath with Sam pulling him up from the edge. Oy!

- In closing, I like the films, especially certain sections, but I much prefer the books.

"I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me!"

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,


Jan 9 2012, 8:11pm

Post #25 of 105 (5414 views)
As far as I'm concerned... [In reply to] Can't Post

...hardly at all.
But that means very little - I am a natural bookworm and nitpicker, which means that
a) It is far easier interesting me in a book than in a film (for instance, I did enjoy Ulysses but slept through Star Wars).
b) I am always aware, and inordinately annoyed, by small details like timeline and internal consistency. Tolkien was both a superb craftsman and wrote to please himself, so he could afford the painstaking effort of following the moon phases; Jackson is a lesser one, and had to refund an enormous budget, and needed to grab a huge audience for it, and quickly.

But this is just me; for instance, I strongly dislike Jackson's Breaking of the Fellowship - far more than the changes to Faramir's role (I think the character was pretty much the same, but the circumstances were manipulated), which I understood the need for.
And you've asked specifically about telling; now telling is an interactive process, involving both the storyteller and the audience. If you or anyone else feel that the way Jackson told it was more powerful, moving or interesting - more power to him, and more enjoyment to you. I have neither a desire nor a right to disparage anyone for it.

But all that was regarding the story. Since I in person am not so good at visualisation, the screenshots worked better for me than Tolkien's description, which I could never imagine concretely; and the music, of course, added an extra dimension. But once again, this is just me.

"The Appendices (and Prologue) gave Tolkien an outlet for explanations he couldn't fit into the text, and therefore made the text that much simpler and free of burdensome explanations. It's very hard for someone who creates a world from the ground up to refrain from overexplaining what he or she has created; the Appendices, and what is more the promise that someday The Silmarillion might be published, may have helped Tolkien exercise ruthless restraint."
- Curious

The weekly discussion of The Lord of the Rings is back. Join us in the Reading Room for the discussion of the appendices!

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